Retailer to partner with South Korean department store to sell ‘very British’ own-brand homewares.
John Lewis is to sell its wares abroad through physical stores for the first time in a tie-up with premium South Korean department store Shinsegae.
The deal gives John Lewis its first physical branded presence overseas, through 850 sq ft shop-in-shops in two Shinsegae stores this spring. They will sell 100 own-brand homewares products, including towels, sheets and accessories.
Branded buying and brand director Peter Ruis said the move was a first step in better harnessing the power of the John Lewis brand.
“We’ve been flirting with the power of our brand in certain categories particularly in home,” said Ruis. “We often get queries from overseas. It’s about developing own brand. We’ve got lots of potential.”
Ruis described the Shinsegae John Lewis offer as a “very British, premium home brand”. Shinsegae would be using John Lewis branding and point of sale to create “the appropriate look and feel”.
“It’s the first time the John Lewis brand has been sold in this way,” he said. “And it’s the first time we’ve done a wholesale deal.” There were no firm plans to develop partnerships with other international retailers, and the Shinsegae deal was “opportunistic”, he added. “It’s not necessarily an international strategy. But wholesale could be a route in the future.” John Lewis already sells goods online to 33 countries.
Ruis said the Korean market was attractive as shoppers were used to buying premium British brands and were willing to pay high price points. He added: “Korea is a good, stable market.”
John Lewis sister retailer Waitrose has sold its Duchy Originals brand in Shinsegae stores for three years. It is expanding that offer to include its brands Waitrose Seriously, Love Life and essential Waitrose.
Shinsegae notched up sales of $3.7bn (£2.3bn) in 2011. Four of its stores rank in Korea’s top 10 department stores in terms of turnover.
Sales in John Lewis’ home category edged up 0.4% in the year to January 28, which managing director Andy Street said last month was a market-beating performance in a tough big-ticket environment. The retailer is rolling out its John Lewis at home format, which allows it to expand through smaller shops.